Got Ethics?

Okay so, a couple of posts ago I went on a rant concerning research. What it is, when and how its done, why its done, and how I can manipulate it to mean that whenever my mother deems what I’m doing as unproductive; “No mum I’m researching!”

But look, it gets a bit more serious than that. We aren’t just talking about me trolling through instagram because someone posted a pair of shoes a few days ago and I just got paid and can now splurge on a new pair of shoes but I can’t remember what brand the shoes were but I’m sure there were comments about where they were from! Not that this a regular occurrence or anything…

But there is a difference between me going through someone who has willingly opened up their life on a social media platform, to me stalking her in person and following her around waiting for her to wear these new shoes so I can refresh my memory.


This is the real deal, when other people are concerned and there is a possibility of someone filing a law suit because my research was unethical you make sure you follow the rules.

Look its not rocket science. We are taught kids to be ethical in all aspects of life. Why? Well it’s the right thing to do; Simple as that. Ethics is exactly that, what is right and what is wrong, “…norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour” (Resnik, 2013).

When engaging in research, ethics are essential in gathering data to ensure the research saves face, protects research participants from any harms or stresses and does what is right “by the project, its participants and the society at large” (McCutcheon 2015)

Whilst ethical standards will differ person-to-person, if the researcher follows the following principles will ensure a high standard of research is conducted

  • Ensure the participant is aware of their involvement in the research and consents to such
  • Avoid distorting truths about the research
  • Ensure the participant is aware of their privacy rights and do not invade these
  • Respect the participant and treat all participants equally

To show how important ethical research can be, we can look to John Money’s personal case study of David Reimer.

ln52a-b-tm(Source: Listverse, 2008)

David Reimer was born in 1965 in Canada. Whilst undergoing the common procedure to be circumcised, David’s penis was burned off due to the misuse of instruments. Psychologist, John Money suggested that the simple solution would be for David to undergo a sex change, which they agreed to. Dr. Money used David, now Brenda had a vagina constructed, and her parents gave her estrogen. John Money neglected to ensure the parents of Brenda knew the full implications of the surgery and the lengthiness of it. Brenda grew up extremely confused about her sexuality and her parents didn’t tell her about the surgery until she was 14 years old. The surgery’s psychological problems extended beyond Brenda to her entire family; he mother was suicidal, her father an alcoholic and her brother suffered from depression. After Brenda’s parents revealed to Brenda her true gender and what had happened she went back to being David and underwent a penis reconstruction. After 38 years of Dr. Money calling the ‘experiment’ a success, David committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 38. This experiment optimizes the importance of the subjects being fully aware of the intent and possible outcomes of research. Had Dr. Money explored all options and possibilities with David’s parents, they may have never agreed to the surgery and could have avoided all or the majority of the negative side effects of the research experiment.

Below is the documentary produced by BBC that recounts David’s story. It does go for a while but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re interested in more details of his story.


BBC Horizon 2004, Dr. Money and the Boy With No Penis, Online Video, 4 November, viewed 30 March 2015, <;

Horizon 2014, Dr. Money and the Boy with No Penis, BBC, viewed 30 March 2015 <;

Maggie 2008, Top 10 Unethical Psychological Experiments, ListVerse, viewed 30 March 2015, <;

Rutland Institute for Ethics, Got Ethics?, image, Rutland Institute for Ethics, viewed 30 March 2015, <;

Woo, E 2004, ‘David Reimer, 38; After Botched Surgery, He Was Raised as a Girl in Gender Experiment’, Los Angeles Times, 13 May, viewed 30 March 2015, <;


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